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Thursday October 18, 2018
'IT SLIPPED AWAY': Wildcat Football Falls In OT

CALEDONIA,  Mich.---The one that got away.

That’s how Saturday’s football game between the Northern Michigan University Wildcats and the Davenport Panthers will be remembered after the ‘Cats lost in overtime, 31-30, in the Grand Rapids suburb of Caledonia.

NMU led the entire game, and was in front 24-9 with eight minutes left before the Panthers used a long punt return and a wave of hometown emotion to tie the game.

“We had every opportunity to put the game away,” NMU head coach Kyle Nystrom said. “We’ll have to go back and critique the film."

"But when we look at the film, it will tell you the same thing that you already know: we had the game in the fourth quarter and let it get away," Nystrom continued. "We didn’t make plays. We didn’t execute on either side of the ball. We didn’t make enough plays to put it away, and they did.”

Davenport quarterback Haiden Majewski found Nate Couturier in the back of the end zone for a 25-yard touchdown to put the Panthers ahead in overtime, 30-24. The PAT made it 31-24.

NMU came right back with its overtime possession, with quarterback Latrell Giles finding Ben Loutsis open on the right hash mark. Loutsis raced into the end zone for the touchdown, making it a one-point game.

Nystrom decided to go for the win, and it appeared that Giles had Jake Mayon open with a short pass to the right. But the pass didn’t connect, the two-point conversion failed, and NMU suffered a heartbreaking loss.

“We weren’t slowing them down,” Nystrom said of the decision to go for two. “And we have a couple of guys nicked up, so when we got the ball down at the three for the PAT, I said ‘let’s go for it’. It was open. We just missed the throw. It’s a team loss.”

Both teams had chances to win before the overtime dramatics.

The Wildcats started the game with an impressive 16-play, 91-yard drive that ended on a 4th-and-1 touchdown run by quarterback Latrell Giles.

Daniel Riser’s extra point made it 7-0.

The Wildcat offense sputtered the rest of the first half, despite a nice 46-yard pass from Giles to Ravon Johnson in the second quarter. But the NMU defense was tough, holding the Panthers to two field goals…one made, and one missed.

Davenport got the ball first to start the third quarter, and the Wildcat defense forced a fumble that set the offense up at the 19-yard line. They moved it to the one yard-line, but had to settle for a Riser 18-yard field goal to make it 10-3.

The Panthers put together a nice drive of their own, marching 69 yards in six plays. Majewski scored on a five-yard run to make it 10-9.

NMU blocked the extra point kick that would have tied the game, and then quickly moved 58 yards in four plays for a touchdown. Mayon’s 24-yard rush to the end zone made it 16-9, and Riser’s kick made it 17-9.

The Wildcats built on their lead with another great play on special teams. The defense forced a punt, and the snap on that punt was bobbled.

Alex Hamilton picked it up and raced to the house with a 33-yard ‘scoop-n-score’.

Riser’s kick made it 24-9 and the Wildcat defense continued to dominate, with the Panthers making two straight holding penalties and having to punt again.

NMU’s offense got a couple of first downs, and ran time off the clock, all the way under the 8:00 mark.

It didn’t look like being forced to punt would be that big of a deal, considering how well the defense was playing. But then came the turning point.

John Kwiecimnski’s line drive kick sent Couturier back to his own 15 yard-line. He made a couple of moves and then raced past everybody to the end zone for an 85-yard touchdown run. Momentum changed. It was 24-16.

‘’We have to do better on special teams,” Nystrom said. “We gave them some life there. We didn’t do a good job on our coverage. We didn’t put it away and that’s what happens when you don’t put games away.”

The NMU offense managed one first down but had to punt again, and it was another long return, this time, a touchdown saving tackle by Jalen Saunders kept the Panthers at the 40 yard-line.

But Majewski went on another touchdown drive, hitting Mike Catching for an 18-yard touchdown with 3:12 to play.

Davenport had to go for the two-point conversion to tie the game, and got called for offensive pass interference. That penalty drove the Panthers back to the 18 yard-line for the conversion, and Amonte Gwinn made the play.

That tied the game at 24-24, and the Wildcat continued to have troubles on offense when Giles was intercepted at the 30 yard-line.

It looked like Davenport would win in regulation as they drove to just shy of the goal line and set up for an 18-yard field goal. But that chip shot field goal was blocked by Kingsford High School graduate Trevor Roberts as time expired and the game went into overtime. But in OT, the Panthers made one more play than the 'Cats did.

CLICK the thumbnails in the ARTICLE HIGHLIGHTS box above to see photos, video highlights, and listen to interviews with Zyggy Arledge and Scott Tripp. Also hear interviews with NMU basketball recruit Reece Castor, and NMU football player Aaron Rochow on next week;s food drive.









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